SYDNEY: An emergency protest was held outside the UK Consulate in Sydney today as Australians rallied in support of Wikileaks publisher and Australian citizen, Julian Assange, following his arrest in London overnight.
About 100 people came out for the snap protest and march in the centre of Sydney with those present calling on the Australian Government to act and stop the attempted extradition of Assange to the United States to face espionage related charges.
Protest organiser, Ian Rose from the Support Assange & Wikileaks Coalition, said Assange’s only crime was telling the world the truth about war crimes committed by the United States and its allies during the Iraq War and in the Middle East.
“Our governments … are war criminals. Julian has exposed this,” Mr Rose said. “Julian must be free. Bring Julian home to Australia.”
Others at the protest described Assange as a whistleblower who was being punished by western governments for his dedication to freedom of information.
“We are here today to say we do believe in freedom of speech,” activist Sam Hansen told the crowd. “We do believe in freedom of information. We do believe in protection for whistleblowers.”
VIDEO: Protestors call on Julian Assange not to be extradited to the US
John August, from the Pirate Party echoed those sentiments, saying it was a political decision for the Australian government to stay quiet on Assange’s arrest.
“Julian Assange is a whistleblower but basically we’ve protected Australians overseas when they’ve gotten in trouble when it’s politically convenient and doesn’t piss off the US,” Mr August said.
Assange was arrested at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London by UK police yesterday for failing to surrender to local authorities over a 2012 rape case in Sweden which has since been dropped.
Assange had been taking refuge in Ecuador’s embassy for almost seven years before Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno withdrew the Wikileaks co-founder’s asylum status this week apparently because of his “discourteous and aggressive behaviour”.
Wikileaks has alleged though that President Moreno was motivated by revenge following embarrassing political leaks recently published.
The US Government has commenced extradition proceedings against the award-winning journalist for his role in publishing the Iraq War documents in October 2010 which showed the US Army engaging in widespread war crimes.
US prosecutors allege that Assange was part of a computer hacking conspiracy involving whistleblower and former US Army officer, Chelsea Manning. Assange has indicated he will be fighting the extradition orders.
A similar protest in support of Assange also took place in Melbourne.